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Day 135 - St. Augustine & Ft Matanzas (Photo's Added)

We visited a smaller, outpost called Fort Matanzas, the St. Augustine Lighthouse, the Fountain of Youth and a small pioneer museum.

semi-overcast 60 °F

After yesterday's storm, today broke out nice and sunny - if still a little cold. That's OK - we have jackets!

Yesterday when we visited Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, we also learned about another small outpost fort about 14 miles further south on the Matanzas river - Fort Matanzas. Since we had camped a little south of the city anyway, I decide to go ahead and check this out today as long as we were in the area.

Fort Matanzas is located on Rattlesnake Island and can only be accessed by Ferry. The National Park Service maintains the site and provides a free ferry to the fort. This is Mom getting ready to board the ferry.

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The Spanish learned that St. Augustine was vulnerable to attack from the river, so built this outpost to guard this approach. The fort was constructed between 1740 and 1742, and had fallen in disrepair by the early 1900's. The National Park Service (NPS) has done a nice job reconstructing it - although they have not coated in in white plaster as it was originally (as shown in the model).

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Once we got off the ferry, we were able to get up into the fort by some stairs in the back. Mom and I were the only visitors on the early morning ferry, so had the park rangers to ourselves (of course, I asked a lot of questions and climbed through just about everything that wasn't off limits anyway).

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This was only a small outpost. The main fort was Castillo de San Marcos at St. Augustine. Soldiers were sent from there to Fort Matanzas for one month tours. The normal complement was a cabo (officer-in-charge), four infantrymen, and two gunners. More soldiers could be sent to the outpost if needed however. The tower had two rooms, the barracks for the everyone except the cabo was downstairs. Notice, those are Spanish uniforms on the pegs - I'm still not quite used to looking at early colonial American History as a Spanish after having spent so much time learning about the British!

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The cabo had the upstairs room to himself. However, since the powder magazine was also accessed via the cabo's quarters, he didn't have a fireplace. If he needed heat, he used a small brossairo.

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The gun deck contained five guns, four six-pounders and one 18-pounder. All of the guns could reach the inlet, which was less than 1/2 mile away in 1742.

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The fort was used for combat one time only. In 1742 the British took a fleet of 12 ships to the Matanzas inlet, probably to try attacking St. Augustine from the back side. They weren't expecting a fort to be in the river. When the fort's cannons fired on their scout ships, the British fleet packed up and went home. In addition to it's military role, the fort served as a rest stop, coast guard station, and navigation aide for ships headed to St. Augustine by the river.

After finishing our tour of the old fort, we took the ferry back to the mainland. Mom collected some sand and we took note of the beautiful live oak's in the parking lot. (In fact, a man was working on a charcoal sketch of this same tree as we left.)

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As you can tell from the above photo's, the sun was out and sky very beautiful today - so I decided to go ahead and climb the St. Augustine Lighthouse. Mom also wanted to visit the museum in the Keeper's quarters. The lighthouse is also on Anastasia Island so was on our way to St. Augustine anyway. The museum had some displays about the lighthouse history and a shipwreck. It also had a nice display of the SPARS, Women in the Coast Guard (Semper Paratus, Always Ready).

This is the same design as the Bodie Lighthouse, but this one is open for climbing. They also have different daymarks (paint schemes). It has a first order Fresnel lens and is 165 feet tall with 219 steps to the gallery. You can get a certificate for climbing it, but you have to buy it.

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From the top is a much better view of the St. Augustine Inlet than the one I posted yesterday.

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I was hoping to try to get a better shot of the Castillo de San Marcos also, but it was just too far away (maybe if I'd had a DSLR? Of course, it would have to be carried up those 219 steps...)

From the lighthouse, we drove back into St. Augustine and decided to visit the Fountain of Youth park. It is a bit of a tourist trap but they have done a nice job. It also turns out to be the actual location of the Timucua (Tim muck coo aah) village of Seloy. This is where Pedro Menendez first established St. Augustine in 1565. There is some evidence that it is also the site where Juan Ponce de Leon landed in 1513, although that is still somewhat in dispute.

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The main claim to fame is a natural mineral spring that was probably no big deal until the idea came to someone to market it to tourists as the fabled 'Fountain of Youth'. It probably was a valued source of mineral water for the Timucua and a reason they located their village here. The Timucua also tended to live a long time, often into their 90's (pre contact of course), so it wouldn't take much imagination to link the mineral water to the long lived Timucua (although their longevity probably had more to do with healthy living in general). Ponce de Leon was reputed to be looking for the 'Fountain of Youth', so it's quite conceiveable that he could have been pointed to this village by such rumors. At any rate, we figured it would be fun to say we'd tasted the water:

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There were also some educational programs on navigation techniques during the 1500's, which we both found interesting, and a program on the Spanish colonial period in general - staring a 50 foot globe (in circumference). I do have a couple of pictures from these, but have uploaded so many pic's from today already that I thought I'd pass. If you'd like to see them however, let me know.

Outside were a number of exhibits also, here is another statue of Juan Ponce de Leon. The second is a Spanish Cistern, used to catch rain water from roofs.

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They had a couple of exhibits side by side showing two commonly used building materials downhere - neither of which I'd ever heard of. On the left is an example of Coquina, a limestone rock formed from shells. Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas were built out of coquina. On the right is Tabby, a concrete made from sand, water and oyster shells (for lime). Tabby was also used for buildings and walls when coquina was too expensive.

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Also outside were a number of Peafowl - technically Peacocks for male and Peahens for female birds. These are very tame and will eat from your hand (food dispensers conveniently located that run on quarters of course).

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The treat was seeing this. These are not that uncommon (surprise to me), but are a recessive genetic mutation so are not as common as the blue variety (they are not albino, as is frequently thought). Neither Mom nor I'd never heard of white peacocks however, so yet again we have learned something new.

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The above picture is courtesy of another tourist. He'd seen me taking pictures of the peacocks earlier, so when this one put on a display, he actually ran into the gift shop to find me and let me know. We just continue to meet the nicest people on this trip!

After all of this, we still had time for one more thing today. I wanted to see the Old Spanish Quarter and Mom wanted to see the Old Florida Museum. After some minor discussion, we agreed to do the Old Florida Museum and I kept the option open to stay over another day (or part of a day) to see the Old Spanish Quarter. See, we can compromise when we need to - everybody gets what they want!

Mom wanted to see the Florida Museum since they had a lot of hands on exhibits. However, they are geared for school groups so when one or two people come through on there own, they don't have the staff to demonstrate anything - it's just a self guided tour, which isn't quite as interesting. There are three basic exhibits - an 1800's homestead & school, a Spanish era home, and a Timucua hut - with associated activites at each exhibit.

Here are the thumbnails for the exhibits and hands on activities - you can click to enlarge or get more information about individual shots.

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Here are a couple of shots from the 1800's homestead cabin & school (my shots of the other buildings didn't come out very well).

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So on the one hand we were both a little disappointed in the place - but we also got to try out some things and did learn a few more things, so it wasn't exactly a bad idea to visit it. But of course by this time Mom really was tired and we needed to quit for today. That's when the trolley driver, Vince, kicked in. He had picked us up earlier in the day and saw that Mom was tired and really made sure he took care of her. His kindness will stick with us for some time.

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At this point, we probably had time to make it to the state park to camp, but decided instead to go back to Wal-mart rather then try to rush it. So while Mom rested, I decided to walk around the grounds a bit and try to get some better shots of the Great Cross than I'd been able to get from the Trolley yesterday. (We had parked at the Nombre de Dios Mission, site of the first Mass or Christian service performed in America the day after Pedro Menendez landed.) The cross was erected to celebrate the 400th anniversary of that event.

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We then had a bite to eat and finally called it a night - we saw a lot today didn't we!

FYI - if you're new to the blog:

When I don't have time to complete an entry, I try to at least write a short stub (Placeholder) so our friends and family back home know where we are and that we're all right. Then when I get the entry rewritten, including Photo's, I change the title from (Placeholder) to (Photo's Added). If I get the full entry written on a current basis, there are no qualifiers in the title, so if it doesn't say (Placeholder), it's the final entry with photo's.

Logistics:

Miles Driven: 34 (RT)
Camped at St. Augustine Wal-mart

Posted by jl98584 19:49 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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